This year, Samantha Irby, best known for her blog Bitches Gotta Eat, released her newest book of essays, “We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.” Irby’s pieces are emotional rollercoasters, capable of taking her readers on joyously funny highs and tender lows. Witty and insightful, Irby’s newest is worth the read.
We asked her just a few questions about the book and married life in Michigan.
JB: You write that you’ve never experienced such a healthy love as you have with your wife. With all your writing about toxic relationships with men, do you worry that the differences you write about will only be seen on a gendered level?
SI: NO! But if they are, that’s OK? I can’t control how people react to the work. I’ve been honest about my experiences; not all of my relationships with men have been toxic, but those make for the most useful and interesting stories. I feel like some of my worst relationships have been the ones I’ve learned from the most. There’s plenty of shit-talk about women out there, so much that I feel like I don’t need to contribute to the pile on. And if the men in my life wanted to be written about more favorably, they would have behaved better.
In “do you guys pay your fucking bills or what?” you ask whether others are living a similar way as you: spending too much of your paycheck as soon as it arrives and then worrying about bills later. It made me wonder if, by this point in your writing career, you expect people to relate to you or do you still wonder every time you write about something potentially embarrassing or scary if you’re the only one who feels that way or has been in that situation?
I don’t. I’m not sure if “by this point in my writing career” you mean that people won’t relate to me because I’m successful? And maybe people who don’t understand what writing pays might think they can’t? But when you’re selling books in the thousands, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands or the millions, a lot of what you get in return is bragging rights and nice clippings for the scrapbook. Like, I didn’t get a guaranteed NFL contract, I wrote a book that a lot of people are gonna check out of the library or pass around their group of friends. And that’s dope, but I don’t think it makes me hard to relate to? Also I don’t think many of the things I write about, depression and chronic illness and anxiety, are things that I’m the only one those things are happening to. Sure maybe you’ve never worn a diaper on a date, but someone has, and even if they haven’t feeling awkward and overwhelmed and frustrated at times while just trying to be a person in the world is universal.
How has being married changed the process and need to write? Do you find yourself being driven by different needs or desires?
Marriage has changed the content of my writing for sure. I’m not looking for partners, I’m having fewer romantic experiences that I can write about anonymously. I never want my wife to become my target, so I try not to work things out between us publicly. At the moment I just try to do things I might not ordinarily so I can get a story out of them. Married life is boring, I gotta find new ways of spicing things up.
Some of my favorite moments of the collection are about Helen the cat. How different was it to write about an animal and did you feel differently about your relationship with her after you finished these essays?
I’ve always written about her in my blog, so writing her origin story didn’t feel much like a departure. As for feeling differently when I was done, she died while I was working on the book so now my reflections on her a tinged a little with grief, but our mutual love/hatred is as strong as ever.
Do you see yourself as a rebellious person? If so, how?
I suppose my existence as a fat, queer, person of color writing about her life is inherently rebellious? But in real life, I toe the line. I don’t have enough of a safety net to be out here living wild and free and not worrying about the consequences. I’m too nervous to be a real rebel.